Group Decision and Negotiation

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 151–179 | Cite as

Policy Representation of a Parliament: The Case of the German Bundestag 2013 Elections



Since voters are often swayed more by the charisma, personal image and communication skills of the individual candidates standing for election than by the parties’ political manifestos, they may cast votes that are actually in opposition to their policy preferences. Such a type of behavior, known as ‘irrational voting’, results in the election of representatives who do not correspond exactly to the voters’ own views. To illustrate this, we consider the 28 German parties that took part in the 2013 Bundestag (federal) election and compare their positions on 36 topical issues with the results of public opinion polls. Then we construct the party and coalition indices of popularity (the average percentage of the population represented) and universality (frequency in representing a majority). In particular, we find that the 2013 election winner, the conservative union CDU/CSU with their 41.5 % of the votes, was the least representative among the 28 parties considered. The representativeness of the Bundestag is about 50 %, as if the correspondence with the electorate’s preference on every policy issue had been decided by tossing a coin, meaning that the Bundestag’s policy profile is independent of that of the electorate. The next paper, ‘An election method to improve policy representation of a parliament’ (Tangian 2016), suggests a possible way to surmount the problems revealed by our analysis. An alternative election procedure is proposed and hypothetically applied to the 2013 Bundestag, producing a considerable gain in its representativeness.


Policy representation Representative democracy Direct democracy Elections Coalitions 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) at the Hans Böckler FoundationDüsseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany

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